Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Reading Frankenstein!

I have just finished reading the actual "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley, and I have to say - I am amazed!

The story Shelley wrote bears little resemblance to the movies that have terrorised and thrilled watchers over the years. And, as far as the monster itself is concerned, the movies are far, far from the mark!  Sure, Shelley's description of the Monster is of a giant, grotesque, ugly creature "of such loathesome yet appalling hideousness", but that is where the comparison stops.  The dumb, clumsy, dare I say goofy, monster of the films in no way represents the eloquent, self-educated, indestructible, super-human of the book.  The sub-title of the book  - The Modern Prometheus - gives a clearer indication of what the Monster is really about.

Certainly, the Monster does become an evil fiend, perpetrating horrendously malicious acts upon Frankenstein's family and friends.  But that is not, seemingly, how he originally thought, and his acts were driven by the anger and pain caused by the actions of Victor Frankenstein himself - even if we grant that the original murder of Frankenstein's young brother was an accident.  All of the subsequent murders and acts of terror were aimed to cause pain to Frankenstein as recompense for his refusal to create a bride for the Monster, in the same form as himself, which would have allowed him to have some form of companionship throughout the rest of his otherwise doomed-to-be-alone existence.  In much of what the Monster says, we can pity him, but the depravity of his acts counteracts our feelings, and leaves us in a quandary: What should we feel for this hideous creature - fear and horror, or pity and sorrow?

Why the majority of film makers have never focussed on the true nature of the Monster is easy to see - it is a very complex character to translate into the small amount of time a film allows. Also, the timeline of the novel stretches over a number of years, and the timeline of a typical Frankenstein movie is usually a number of days.

Before I totally castigate all Fankenstein horror movies, I'll reserve my final judgement until I see De Niro's performance as the Monster.  I'd hope the portrayal by such an accomplished actor would be more in line with Shelley's own vision, and I look forward to seeing it.

I'll let you all know how it goes!


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